Doc Rivers left the Celtics in 2013 because he didn’t want to rebuild. Ray Allen had already left, and Boston traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets. Rivers joined the ready-built Clippers, who featured Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and offered front-office control.
Four years later, the Celtics advanced further than the Clippers ever did under Rivers. Rivers has been stripped of his presidency of the Clippers, who project to be worse than Boston for the foreseeable future.
“My love for them hasn’t changed,” Rivers said of the Celtics. “For me, it was time for me to change. When you’re somewhere for nine years, you don’t think whether it’s the right or wrong decision, you think it’s the right decision for you at that time. But as far as wanting them to do well, that will never change. Unless they’re playing me.
“Other than that, love Danny (Ainge), love (owner Steve Pagliuca), that whole group, and I just want them to do well. I really do. I love what they’ve done. I think the turnaround in four years starting with hiring Brad and then going from … (Ainge) and (assistant general manager) Mike Zarren have done the best job I’ve seen in sports in a long, long time of rebuilding. Maybe ever.”
I wonder whether Rivers regrets leaving the Celtics, whose rebuild was masterful.
Danny Ainge traded Garnett and Pierce just before their production fell off a cliff, receiving a massive return and sabotaging Brooklyn into high first-round picks that conveyed to Boston (including Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum). The Celtics also nailed smaller moves, like trading a low first-rounder for Isaiah Thomas and getting Jae Crowder thrown into the Rajon Rondo trade. They’re poised to advance even further with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Of course, another decision Ainge aced was hiring Brad Stevens to replace Rivers. Stevens is one of the NBA’s best coaches, and though Rivers is also respected, the Celtics might not be as well of if they just kept Rivers.
Still, those Nets picks would have been a huge head start no matter who was coaching Boston.
Rivers’ decision to leave was logical, but in hindsight, it sure seems he came out behind in L.A.
At least Rivers gets to keep his dual-title salary while only coaching the Clippers.